I honestly can’t even recall who first ignited my interest in positive training … I suspect it may have been a university prof’s reference to Skinner and his work with operant conditioning  watching old old film of pigeons choosing to do behaviours to earn pellets of food fascinated me – why would anyone train a pigeon?  

Perhaps it was learning about the Baileys and their work – particularly around shaping – oh how I do love shaping …

It wasn’t Don’t Shoot The Dog – or Karen Pryor – although once I decided that I needed to know more about positive training I certainly read everything of hers I could get my hands on 

Anyhow – all this is a roundabout way to say I am not sure when I started thinking about it … but it’s been decades since I have been exploring the formal elements of positive training. 

Positive training helps all the animals in the family accept new things with equanimity

You really can’t grasp the real meaning of being a positive trainer until you have a working knowledge of the Operant Quadrant developed by Skinner (google seems to think) 

reinforcement increases a behaviour – it is not a treat unless that treat increases the behaviour that came before it 

punishment reduces behaviour 

in the context of the quadrant the terms below get very confusing for some people – but think of it like math 

positive means you ADD something

negative means you SUBTRACT something

these examples (adapted from dogster.com) may help you understand or they may confuse you thoroughly  – sorry if it’s the latter!

” Positive punishment (P+) – we are adding an [aversive] stimulus which will reduce the frequency of behavior. Spanking, shouting, and hitting  can be examples of positive punishment.

Negative punishment (P-)- we are removing a [desirable] stimulus to reduce the frequency of behavior. If a dog jumps on a person to greet them, and the person walks away when the dog jumps, negative punishment has been employed – that person is removing their attention to reduce the frequency of jumping in the future. 
Positive reinforcement (R+)- we are adding a [desirable] stimulus to increase the frequency of behavior. A dog sits and gets a click and a treat. A horse gets a wither scritch for good under saddle work. You go to work, and are reinforced with a paycheck.
Negative reinforcement (R-)- we are removing an [aversive] stimulus to increase the frequency of behavior. Your alarm clock goes off continually until you get up to turn it off – the behavior of getting up to turn off the alarm clock has been negatively reinforced. A dog runs away from the handler and an electric shock is administered until the dog begins to return to the handler (removing the shock to increase the frequency of dog checking in). Spatial pressure on a horse is removed to encourage a horse to load into a trailer”
Pressure has been the heart of horse training for years … I am not trying to train with no pressure and release at all – I am trying to say Thank you  sincerely and honestly as often as I can  and being as responsive to my horses needs as I want them to be to mine 

Many “positive trainers” use three (or less) of the four quadrants  and stay away from positive punishment (thanks for the great catch Blanche!), others work hard to stay in R+ only. Dog trainers are further along  the spectrum than horse people  in terms of numbers who are aware/working to consciously choose a quadrant to operate from.  
With this cute face around who could be punishment oriented?

Why have I embraced positive training? It’s a great question and the answer is layered. I like having a positive relationship with my team. All species. I have a nasty temper – well managed and diminished now but still in my core and my temper doesn’t make me feel good. Training in anger feels wrong to me. Putting anger out of the equation makes me a more thoughtful, planned and organized trainer. It’s helped me set goals more concretely and it reminds me respect is a two way street. 
It has changed my life for the better – and because of that I hope it has changed my animal’s lives and my student’s lives. I am not perfect. I yell. I get cross – I have smacked a horse or dog a couple of times in the last two decades but positive training has made me a better person and I am grateful for it. 

Just a few more random thoughts that I feel bear mention in any discussion of positive training: 
Positive  Training is not clicker training – although clicker training is positive  – to hear someone say they are a positive or R+ trainer does not automatically mean they use a clicker … 

Positive training is not permissive

Positive training respects that only the learner can determine what the reward is … 

Rewards are not necessarily food although food can be very effective for many situations

Timing is everything (no matter the species)

Reward placement makes a huge difference to impact … (again no matter the species) 

The last two statements are why so many people struggle with, or fail at positive training … no matter the species they are working with. 

Sally would not have been the star she was filming Saving Dinah without positive training. 

So many good links on this for people who might want to read more 

http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/6_2/features/5517-1.html  (so many amazing dog trainers discussing positive training!)

http://www.theclickercenter.com/-Read-Me-.html (horses and general clicker thoughts)

https://positively.com/dog-training/positive-training/what-is-positive-training/ (dogs and the foundation pillars on which positive training should be built)

https://denisefenzi.com/2013/12/10/purely-positive/ (well stated blog that covers my feelings when I get slammed for working to live in a positive training realm)

http://andrea-agilityaddict.blogspot.ca/2013/05/the-power-of-positive.html (me on a soap box about flexibility and patience in training all species)

Some videos you might enjoy 

http://shawnakarrasch.com/blog/2010/06/04/reward-reinforcement/  (horses and reinforcement  discussing food)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndTiVOCNY4M  (an aamazing example of timing – and one way to teach “drop”)